Anti-rotation exercises offer an underrated way to train your core

anti-rotation exercises

6 anti-rotation exercises for cyclistsTrevor Raab

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Becoming a stronger, more resilient cyclist isn’t just about the miles you ride. Every exercise you do in your off-road workouts can help you build a body better able to handle those miles. A great example: anti-rotation exercises.

Anti-rotation exercises refer to any exercise in which you resist a rotational force, explains physical therapist Kate BochnewetchDPT, CSCS, founder of the running DPT in Buffalo, New York. A plank shoulder strike, for example, is an anti-rotation exercise because your body naturally wants to rotate side to side as you move from hand to hand, you have to work to resist that rotation by engaging your core. . In fact, any anti-rotation exercise will light up your midsection.

Compared to basic core moves like crunches, which mostly isolate the surface muscles (think: the six-pack abdominal muscles known as the rectus abdominis), anti-rotation moves also help recruit the muscles that are in deep into your core, says Bochnewetch. This includes your obliques as well as your pelvic, hip, and lower-mid back muscles, all of which play an important role in stabilizing your spine and helping you move safely, efficiently, and powerfully when you’re there out for a ride.

Anti-rotation moves are such a simple thing you can add to your standard strength-training program with big-earning benefits, says Bochnewetch, who typically pencils in one or two anti-rotation moves a week for his clients at resistance as part of their regular strength training workouts.

How do cyclists benefit from anti-rotation exercises?

With cycling, there’s a rotational component, whether athletes realize it or not, Bochnewetch explains. Think about it: As you pedal, your legs move back and forth in opposition to each other, as your arms maneuver the handlebars, and this causes your torso to naturally want to rotate. But rotation can make your driving inefficient. That’s because it’s essentially wasted energy—energy that should be used to propel you forward is instead spent on excessive rotation, Bochnewetch explains.

In other words, anti-rotation exercises teach you to keep your trunk stable, even if your arms or legs move. And they improve core strength and stiffness, which allows for better energy transfer between the upper and lower body. Additionally, improving core strength and stiffness through anti-rotation movements and other core exercises can increase your ability to stabilize against external forces, which in turn can reduce your risk of injury.

One caveat: Incorporating anti-rotation exercises into your routine doesn’t mean you should avoid all rotational movements. The key is to find the balance between rotation and anti-rotation exercises with a strength routine that includes both types of movements.

The best anti-rotation exercises for cyclists

To start building core stability while resisting rotation, we turned to strength coach, Jess Movold, to share her favorite moves.

How to use this list: Complete 2 sets of the following exercises, in order. Perform each exercise for the number of repetitions listed below. Each move is demonstrated by coach Jess in the video above so you can learn proper form. You’ll need a yoga block, a kettlebell or dumbbell, and a long resistance band. An exercise mat is optional.

1. Yoga Block Bird Dog

anti-rotation exercises, bird dog with yoga block

Trevor Raab

Why it works: This really is a great anti-rotation exercise that’s good for beginners, says Bochnewetch, adding that it’s also great for shoulder stability. Coach Jess also explains that the yoga block gives you feedback about your form, letting you know if your hips or shoulders are out of alignment and you need to reset that core.

How to do it: Start on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Place a yoga block on your lower back. The goal is to keep your hips and shoulders level so the block doesn’t drop. Engage the core by pulling the navel towards the spine. This is the starting position. Slowly lift your left arm and right leg and extend outward, driving through your right heel and reaching your left toe tips. Break. Then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating for 6 reps on each side.

2. Dead Bug with weighted offset

anti-rotation exercises, kettlebell dead bugs

Trevor Raab

Why it works: The anti-rotation component of this dead insect exercise is the same as for the dog-bird, just in a different position, Bochnewetch explains. If you have trouble keeping your lower back on the ground, keep your knee bent instead of straightening your leg. Make sure you keep your lower back pressed into the floor as well.

How to do it: Lie face up. He grabs a kettlebell with his left hand and pushes up, so the weight is in line with his shoulder. Lift your legs up, with knees bent 90 degrees, and place your knees directly over your hips. Raise right arm straight up, wrist over shoulder. Press your lower back into the ground to engage your core. This is the starting position. From here, slowly lower your right arm towards the ground behind you, while simultaneously straightening your left leg, also lowering it towards the floor. Pause for a moment with your limbs hovering a few inches off the ground, then slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat. Then switch sides. Do 6 reps on each side.

3. Pillar of the March board

anti-rotation exercises, plank pillar march

Trevor Raab

Why it works: Arm reach is what makes this plank variation an anti-rotation movement, says Bochnewetch. Make it easier by lifting your arm a few inches off the ground. Make it harder by simultaneously lifting the opposite leg. Coach Jess also suggests starting with plank shoulder taps before moving into this progression. You can also spread your feet if you want more stability and closer together if you want more of a challenge either way, keep your hips still the entire time.

How to do it: Start in a high plank with feet shoulder-width apart, arms straight, shoulders stacked over the wrists, and core, glutes and legs engaged. Your body should form one long straight line from the top of your head to your heels. This is the starting position. Lift your right hand off the ground and slowly reach forward. Pause for a moment when your arm is straight, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating for 6 reps on each side.

4. Pallof Press

anti-rotation exercises, palof press

Trevor Raab

Why it works: This move is a favorite of Bochnewetch that he uses frequently with athletes. She likes that it’s easily scalable—you can ramp up the difficulty by using a stronger resistance band or performing the movement while standing in a staggered stance, which makes it easy to keep challenging your body as you build strength.

How to do it: Wrap one end of a large resistance band around a sturdy object, such as a pole or rig, at chest height. With the left side of your body facing the anchor, stand up with your feet hip-width apart. Hold the band with both hands on your chest (make sure you are far enough away from the anchor that there is resistance on the band). Engage your core and push the band directly in front of your chest. Pause, then bring your arms back to your chest. Repeat. Do 6 reps. Then switch sides.

5. Single arm press with balance

single leg overhead press anti-rotation exercises

Trevor Raab

Why it works: The one-sided component of this movement makes it an anti-rotation exercise, Bochnewetch explains. Trainer Jess loves this exercise for the balance challenge—cyclists need strong balance to stand on the bike, as well as the stability it requires from the core, glutes, and ankle.

How to do it: Stand upright with feet hip-width apart. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in your right hand at shoulder height, palm facing left. Engage your core and lift your left foot, knee bent 90 degrees, so your quadriceps are parallel to the floor, knee and hip in line. This is the starting position. Press the weight directly overhead, bicep to ear, as you drive through your right foot to standing. Pause when your right arm is straight, then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Repeat. Do 6 reps. Then switch sides.

6. Single arm swing

anti-rotation exercises, single arm swing

Trevor Raab

Why it works: As with the previous move, the one-sided component of this move is what makes it an anti-rotation exercise, says Bochnewetch. Your core has to really engage to keep your torso from rotating towards the weight bearing arm. Coach Jess likes to end a workout with an explosive exercise like this swing, as it helps you build power, improves core stability, and gets your heart rate up.

How to do it: Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and a kettlebell placed at arms’ length away from you. Hinge at the hips sending your butt straight back, just a slight bend in the knees and back flat, and grab the kettlebell with your right hand. Keeping your hips hinged, swing the kettlebell between your legs and behind you. Then, drive through your feet and drive your hips forward in one quick, powerful motion, so that the kettlebell swings up to chest height. You should hit a plank-like position at the top of your swing. (Don’t lean back!) Let your weight guide you back into the hinge position, with the bell between your legs and behind you. Repeat. Then switch sides. Do 6 reps on each side.

Trainer Jess Movold wears Athletas Elation Cross Rib Tight and Momentum Tank.

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